Debating came easy for Wesley Just

Rosemount alumnus to compete in National Forensic League nationals this weekend with Andrew Hanson

Public speaking and debate are highly refined skills that aren’t often used by the unassuming.

Wesley Just
Wesley Just

Though he seems like a typical high school senior, Rosemount’s Wesley Just has mastered them.

The 2013 alumnus from Rosemount High School graduated as perhaps the best speaker and debater with the highest total National Forensic League tournament points in the school’s history.

He has one last debate in him. Just and his teammate Andrew Hanson are heading to the NFL tournament Saturday through Tuesday in Birmingham, Ala. It’s Just’s third time at nationals.

Just qualified for Student Congress, which is a mix of speech and debate, his sophomore and junior years. This year he qualified in Policy Debate and Student Congress again, but he can only compete at nationals in one event.

“I’m going in policy debate — that way I’m not shorting Andrew, and I really prefer debate,” Just said. “It’s really interesting. It’s consists of research and preparation. You’re never really finished.”

Just was nearly a triple qualifier, as a semifinalist in Extemporaneous Speaking.

Forensics and debate has brought Just all over the country and has opened several doors. He spent three weeks every summer at debate camps in Michigan and Georgetown. He’s completed in Maryland, Texas, Iowa, Alabama and Illinois.

He joined with hopes of building his resume, and he says he’s always been an argumentative person.

“After being in a debate a few months in Student Congress and National Forensic League, it made me a competitive person, and I found I was pretty good at it,” Just said. “Getting to the NFL three times has been really special.”

Last year he was named All-American, meaning he was ranked in the top 100 in the United States. Another crowning achievement was when he picked up 15-of-16 ballots at a tournament in Baltimore, Md., at the National Catholic Forensics League tournament last year.

“That’s almost unheard of,” Just said.

He didn’t get to this point overnight. He may have a natural gift for discussion, but he’s also a little obsessed.

“I think there’s an assumption debate isn’t very involved,” Just said. “It’s really a year-round activity. It’s more intense than any other sport. There’s nights upon nights researching and speaking. It’s impossible to get worse. I was just overly involved; that’s the best way to put it. You really have to be dedicated. It’s been my life for the past four years. Almost every weekend I spent at a high school or college for a tournament.”

This weekend in Alabama, Jest and Hanson will be debating both sides of one topic: “Resolved: That the federal government should substantially increase its transportation infrastructure investment in the United States.”.

“We advocate updates in the technology in airplanes and towers to be more efficient, more advanced radar and better communication,” Just said. “You should be able to get more flights in the air and land planes faster.”

They advocate when on the affirmative, while the negative will argue against it by calling out disadvantages and proposing alternatives.

“That’s where the research comes in to answer for all these viewpoints and prepare for alternative proposals and counter disadvantages,” Just said.

Just will often have to debate ideas he doesn’t personally believe in.

“It really opens up a person’s eyes about a certain subject,” Just said. “I learn a lot about the world around me.”

Their opponents have advocated increasing port security, road infrastructure, bike use and electric cars.

“You never know who is waiting,” Just said. “Each judge wants to hear something different. Having a winning rebuttal is the secret to winning any debate. Three or four words can win it.”

His official debating career will come to an end next week. Next fall he plans on attending the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

“There’s not speech or debate at Saint Thomas,” Just said. “I plan on involving myself in student government and mock trial teams. It will be nice to have a break. I’ve been so heavily involved. These have been some of the greatest moments of my life, and it’s opened doors for me.”

He plans to study supply chain and operations management along with international business.

He’s thankful for his time in Rosemount.

“We have low enrollment rates in forensics, and not a lot of people know what it is,” Just said. “But we’re very competitive with the bigger teams from Apple Valley, Eagan and Eastview. (Coach) Cort Sylvester has done really amazing things with the program.”

The duo is the seventh policy debate team from Rosemount to qualify for nationals. It’s the second straight year for their policy teams, fourth straight year someone from Rosemount will attend nationals in at least one of the events, and the 21st time someone from Rosemount will be at the NFL Nationals.

“We always consider it a real honor to qualify for nationals, because the local competition (the southern Minnesota district) is intense,” Sylvester said.

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